Sinn Féin TD Ó Caoláin describes heart attack experience

Says doctor ‘incredulous’ over time it took for ambulance to arrive

File photograph of Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

File photograph of Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.


Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has spoken of his personal experience with the ambulance service when suffering a heart attack last January.

Medical staff treating him could not believe the amount of time it took for an ambulance to arrive, he told the Oireachtas health committee this morning.

Mr Ó Caoláin said he was in a doctor’s surgery when the heart attack occurred, just one quarter of a mile from the local ambulance station. However, the ambulance sent to him came from Virginia, 40 miles away.

The GP and nursing staff treating him until the ambulance came were “incredulous” of the delay involved, he said, and were very concerned.

Mr Ó Caoláin said this was not his first experience of a heart attack and he has since had further stents inserted. There was a further experience involving an ambulance callout in his family, but with a less favourable result, about this time.

Mr Ó Caoláin called for the establishment of a national ambulance authority to ensure that patients requiring emergency treatment were dealt with fast than occurred at present.

Describing the current service as not safe, responsive or fit for purpose, Mr Ó Caoláin accused Minister for Health James Reilly of failing to recognise the real experiences of staff and patients in highlighting the failings of the National Ambulance Service.

It wasn’t acceptable that only one in three ambulance callouts to people with life-threatening conditions arrived last year within the target time of eight minutes. Lives were being lost, and people believed their family members might have survived in the ambulance had arrived in the set time.

However, Minister for Health James Reilly said it wasn’t correct that only one-third of serious callouts were getting treatment within the target time. There was too much focus on how quickly the ambulance arrived, when what was really important was that the patient received care as quickly as possible.